Legislator Launches Personal Attack on Embattled State Rehab Chief

JANUARY 5, 2005 - Posted at 8:00 a.m. CST

LITTLE ROCK, AR - A legislator threatened the state's rehabilitation services commissioner and called him a dictator yesterday, but couldn't eliminate the $96,000 per year job after other lawmakers reversed an earlier vote to do so.

Representative Bob Mathis of Hot Springs told rehab commissioner John Wyvill on Tuesday, "I don't personally like you.  You better be watching your backside because I am going to be watching your front side.  I think you act like a dictator over there."

Last week, Mathis called the 38-year-old Wyvill incompetent, and the Joint Budget Committee's personnel subcommittee voted unanimously and without debate to cut the commissioner job.  But the subcommittee reversed itself yesterday.

Wyvill has held the job since July 1999.  He declined comment yesterday.  From 1996 to 1999, he was Governor Mike Huckabee's assistant legal counsel.  Huckabee defended Wyvill following Mathis' comments, saying he had done a great job at the agency.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)